The press has done its usual fine job of reporting on the siege of Fallujah–which is to say that it is impossible for the public to figure out what is going on there.
The difficulty isn’t all a matter of bad reporting, though. The important thing to remember is that the Fallujah standoff is being run by the politicians, and so we have entered a world where the Law of Identify has been repealed–where A is non-A and everything both is and isn’t at the same time.
In this World of Non-A, this is a politicized war that is not a politicized war. The administration has repeatedly declared that it is not going to let politics interfere with the strategy necessary to fight the war. Yet according to a Washington Post report, “US military officials in Iraq said that because of political sensitivities, overall policy decisions about the standoff in Fallujah are being made by the White House.”
What is the main political consideration? This is an occupation that is not an occupation. We are imposing military control on a hostile foreign country, yet we are also supposedly “liberating” that country for the sake of the Iraqi people. So we don’t dare look as if American soldiers are killing or defeating Iraqis–even while that is precisely what we ask them to do.
So in Fallujah, we had a cease-fire that was not a cease-fire. On April 19, US troops declared that they had arranged a cease-fire with the insurgents. That cease-fire has continued pretty much up to the present–notwithstanding the fact that the insurgents have been shooting at us, and we have been shooting back.
Now, as the logically illogical consequence, we have a withdrawal that is not a withdrawal. News organizations have shown Marines packing up their gear and leaving–which they have been, in some parts of Fallujah. But later announcement indicate that these are the areas that are not under the control of the insurgents and where the Marines are “not heavily engaged.” Thus, an Associated Press story from Friday bore the headline
“Kimmit: Marines Not Leaving Fallujah,” which reports that the Marines “will retain a strong presence ‘in and around’ the city.”
So how are we going to avoid the politically unpopular “perception” that our troops are putting down an Iraqi insurgency–even while they remain in Fallujah to put down an Iraqi insurgency? The key is to “put an Iraqi face” on the American campaign. This is supposedly going to be done by “integrating” US forces with a “Fallujah Protective Army” under the command of a former Saddam-era general. This Iraqi force is supposed to do the dirty work of separating civilians from combatants and killing the insurgents–which will allegedly free us from the unpopular task.
And who are the Iraqis who are going to help us do this? Enemies who are our allies. According to a Boston Globe report, “Not only are former military members best equipped to track down resistance fighters, some have contacts with the resistance and may even have participated in it, said a senior Marine official in the Fallujah area. ‘At the very least, they can reach out to them,’ the official said yesterday, speaking on the condition of anonymity, as fine points of the plan were still being worked out. ‘Maybe they are “them”–I’m not asking that question.’ “
He is “not asking that question”–of men who are supposed to fight side-by-side with his Marines?
Over the weekend, this contradiction compounded itself when the Iraqi general whom we had selected to kill the foreign fighters in Fallujah declared that there are no foreign fighters in Fallujah. He has since been replaced with an Iraqi general supposedly more sympathetic to the coalition–under the premise that all we need to do is to change the personnel, not the policy.
All of this is dictated by the greatest contradiction behind our war policy–which can be seen in the instructions given to the Marine commanders in Fallujah. They were tasked with destroying the insurgents, but barred from fighting a major battle or causing any civilian casualties, since that might “inflame anti-American sentiment.” The contradiction is: destroy the opposition to the occupation–while also appeasing it.
If all of this sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, that is what we can expect when we allow any intrusion of the A-is-non-A outlook of the modern politician into the non-negotiable, life-or-death reality of war.